What would the classical composers say of the millions now enjoying their works on high-quality CDs and DVDs? What would the astronomers and physicists of antiquity through Galileo's and Newton's times and beyond say about the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft now orbiting Saturn -- and about my ability to follow it on my laptop from any "hot-zone" donut shop? One can only speculate on these and similar unanswerables.
What would the classical economists say about today's international trade? If they look at the evidence published by economists Christian Broda and David Weinstein in the May 2004 American Economic Review, they might be similarly impressed. Writing on "Variety Growth and World Welfare", the researchers present data on increases in the average number of suppliers per imported good -- by country and by commodity. For the U.S., the average number of suppliers per imported good grew by 36% between 1972 and 1997. The authors show that, "U.S. welfare is 3-percent higher due to the increase in imported varieties."
On the other side, there are serious academic writers who fret about "too many choices".
There are serious presidential candidates who seek votes by bashing trade.
There is also Pat Buchanan, protesting the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, along with the guys dressed up as turtles -- and now lamenting his odd bedfellows in this week's New Yorker.
The more things change ...